‘We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.’ – Swami Vivekananda
Religious Harmony and Tolerance by Swami Vivekananda
Life is a perpetual journey with different paths yielding to a final destination. The five elements amalgamate to form the entire universe, the seven colors diffuse in to form the white light and thousands of cells combine to form the building blocks. We cannot neglect the big picture; nor can we lose sight of the individual entities that form the constituents, the absence of anyone of which will render the outcome as incomplete. A single idea, though quite capable of colossal changes, cannot govern the entire humankind or timeline in itself. Even a single object can be perceived in many different ways by different people. How can we therefore expect a single religion to sustain the entire world? This led to the origin of different religions, customs and traditions over the ages, which gradually became the identities of particular factions in society.
The idea of any religion is the quest for a higher truth. The quest for truth is an ongoing progressive journey. It may take an indefinite time to reach the destination, depending on our efforts and God’s grace. Our faith stems from different revelations and experiences at different stages of life. All the symbols, rituals, hymns are the means to acquire this truth. They help us to progress gradually in our journey to a stage where we no longer need any medium to seek truth as it is manifested to us. But those who cling to these means and try to project it as their sole identity and truth often digress from the path or make a spiral journey.
Very often in the veil of secularism or religious tolerance, we tend to do away with the religion as such. People often proclaim that to be good and do good is the whole of religion. But this is just the religion in its simplest sense and does not encompass the multitude of religion. One should study the scriptures, analyze, correlate with life and practice for its pragmatism. Religious harmony in its true essence is the realization of the spirituality within and around us. If this perspective is clearly understood, there shall be no conflicts, no egotism, no dogmatism and no escapism in the kingdom of God.
‘Realization is real religion, all the rest is only preparation-hearing lectures or reading books or reasoning is merely preparing the ground; it is not religion.’ – Swami Vivekananda
Each religion has something valuable to contribute towards humankind quest for truth. Though each one of them is different in their teachings and way of life, yet they all point towards the noble virtues of life. To truly understand another religion, one should first be deeply committed to one’s own faiths and traditions. Understanding other religion broadens one’s horizon to new spiritual insights.
God has revealed Himself to mankind through umpteen forms and scriptures at various point of time among various cultures. The teachings have been universal as well as contemporary, for the common masses as well as the educated group, for the beginner and for the expert. That is why; often we see some contradictions in those teachings, which may be purely referential. For human with finite abilities, it is impossible to comprehend the infinite God. But those who stride their steps in a right direction are often rewarded by God’s unfailing love.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of others and yet preserve its individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.’
True religion preaches us the doctrine of peace, unconditional love and devotion. It seeks no trade or bargains. It seeks for the highest form of knowledge and enlightenment by dispelling ignorance. It emphasizes in character making and service to the society. It establishes the relationship between men and God, body and soul. It is practical in every sense and unspoiled by external influences. It is not the propriety of a chosen few, but belongs to one and all who is willing to accept it with an open mind and a pure heart. It provides with a source of everlasting joy and bliss.
“It was not only impossible that there should be one religion for the whole world, but it would be dangerous. If the whole of religious thoughts was at the same level, it would be the death of religious thought; variety was its life.” – Swami Vivekananda
It is thus important for us to realize that the true religious harmony lies in adopting and not abandoning. It does not require one to give up one’s own religion but to assimilate the virtues inherent in the mutual development and coexistence. This is a treasure which expands on sharing and experiencing. There are many mysteries and unknown destinations which one encounters in due course of this journey, but we must learn to enjoy the moments as the mystery unfolds.